Putnam Stadium soon will be a memory, and its demolition, starting next week, promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime show.
Spectators, whether sentimental or just curious, won’t be able to get too close once workers start chopping up the old bleachers, however.
The machinery involved throws a massive punch, and the possibility of shards of concrete whizzing through the air has prompted the demolition contractor to suggest onlookers remain about 1,500 feet away.
Local company Light’s Enterprises is doing the job, and proprietor Mike Light said workers plan to be on the site Monday to get their equipment in place.
They will be using a track hoe fitted with a toe ram, a machine much like a giant jackhammer that jabs away at the concrete with 10,000 pounds of force.
The plan is to strike the first blow at roughly 7:30 a.m. Jan. 28, starting at the open end of the stadium on the home side, and work toward the closed end; once that side is done workers will start on the visitor side bleachers, Light said.
The challenge lies in the unpredictability of the aging concrete in the 76-year-old stadium, he said. Built in a time when concrete was cheap, contractors didn’t skimp on materials, so there are massive hunks of the material to break up. Further, workers won’t know for sure until they get started whether the concrete is brittle and thus easy to break, or hard enough to resist their efforts.
It may crumble or it may shatter.
There also are steel components that will take more time to cut up for recycling.
The concrete debris will be removed and eventually will end up as fill material, although Light isn’t yet sure where.
His contract gives him three weeks to get it done. Weather is unlikely to be an issue, but if the toughness of the concrete slows down the work he may have to impose longer shifts or even around the clock work.
Light doesn’t foresee any risk to the football field, because debris will fall naturally into the void below and behind the seats.
Light and his workers have had previous experience with similar materials, notably when his company tore down the old Big Sandy building on 17th Street in the 1990s.
The school district has plans to sell stadium seats as souvenirs, and to give away bricks. Light said he doesn’t need a commemorative chunk of concrete because his own memories are souvenir enough.
He was on the 1970 Russell High School football team that was the first from that school to beat the Tomcats — and it did it in Putnam Stadium.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.